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Thread: Epic Failure, need to rant

  1. #1
    Member OldSchool45's Avatar
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    Default Epic Failure, need to rant

    So my frustration level is about as high as it can get. First off, I get out quite a bit during the year, not as much as I would like but thats always the case. I have been hunting moose for five seasons now without ever laying eyes on a bull those precious few days each September, baited bear for two seasons and done nothing more than send a few squirrels into diabetic comas (in fact I have never even seen a bear that wasn't already dead), called predators all 5 winters with zero success. Finally bought an ATV last winter and road that into zone 1 for two delightful days of glassing everyone else glassing empty tundra. I've heard and tried all the advice you can think of about hunting up here "Oh just sit and glass for moose they walk around and you'll see them, call for moose during the rut, call for moose all season, don't walk for moose, walk for moose, watch the swamps, watch the hillsides, run up the rivers, drive the ridges, hunt the chena, hunt the white mountains, hunt the pipeline, hunt every slough, drive out the rex alone, don't drive out the rex alone, I don't even know where the trailhead IS!, go find a place with no one around and sit (yeah that place doesn't exist with an atv, and if you try walking there an atv beat you to it); use anise oil, honey burn, anise burn, bacon burn, beaver castor, tie vanilla soaked rags to your boots, put the barrel by a stream, put the barrel on a ridge; call with this sound, that sound, lots of sound, almost no sound, use a decoy, you don't need a decoy", and my all time personally favorite bit of advice- "sounds like you got it, just keep doing what you're doing and it will happen". Never even wasted the gas to try salmon fishing because I won't drive five hours on the awesome pearls of wisdom I have received regarding that endeavor. Don't have the money to pay guides and/or pilots and I believe I should be able to find my own meat like everyone else, not be led around like a puppy. However, every decision I make seems to be wrong and I end up wasting time and gas going to "new" areas only to find out this new area is a parking lot, brush jungle, or washed away. I have been hacking away at it alone this whole time trying to figure out what to do while all my friends make great claims to take me with them and show me the ropes, then seem to forget my name until it's time to brag about their latest catch/kill. I have the right gear to stay in the woods and can track well, which has been awesome at telling me where everything was. Yes, I love just being in the woods but come on, after this last stint up the steese for another overpriced camping trip I am absolutely baffled and literally have run out of things I can feasibly try. I don't even want to go to work Tuesday because I am the laughing stock of the office now that my coworkers have found out the biggest thing I have killed in five years in Alaska is a couple grouse. My wife, bless her soul, pities me and explains to people that I am too stupid to get it right and too stubborn to quit.
    Pheww, ok, all done. Just needed to unload so I can try to come up with a Plan Y or else Plan Z will become: sell the rifles and atv and take up origami.

  2. #2

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    I never got a moose for my first 3 years, but then I got a real nice one in a super convenient spot. Just keep at it, eventually due to probability a moose will walk right in front of you. Just have to keep at it.

  3. #3

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    I definitely feel for you.

    I'm not an Alaska resident but I hunt there every year, specifically from Fairbanks. I always (100%) get flown into a remote area where no other hunters go. My pilot landed me in a place which showed no evidence a plane had been there at all in 2015. I was about 80 miles from the nearest road of any kind. I saw moose, caribou, wolves, sheep, grizzly and black bears and a wolverine. I wasn't getting run down by game animals, but they were certainly there to find. Amazing country and lots of opportunity. On the way out....

    We saw plenty of game from the Cub when I flew back in. Landing in Central, we then drove the Steese back to town. Along the way we probably observed a couple hundred hunters and multiple-million dollars in rigs from trucks to campers to serious atvs. It was amazing to me to see the effort (and resulting pressure) guys give to hunting off the road system. I know it's the only way for most, but it does make a big difference in quality of the experience and game sightings. We saw exactly NO animals on the drive from Central to Fairbanks....none. I've been doing this hunt for a good many years now and I see the road pressure. I personally don't know how I would deal with it if it was the only way I could hunt. I must have solitude and no competition when I hunt; meaning I don't want it to be a me vs them race to a kill. I can get that anywhere in the lower 48. I go Alaska to escape all that and find unpressured game in unspoiled wilderness.

    Anyway, I have no answers...only encouragement to keep seeking good spots and enjoy your time afield. Hunting is certainly about way more than killing, though a successful harvest is part of the goal. Persistence is good, so long as you learn from each experience and adjust accordingly. Instead of keying off what you read or what others tell you, go it alone and with an open mind. Make your own trails (if you follow my thinking) and any successes will be yours to own. Best of luck to you.

  4. #4

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    I have thrown all of my critter calls away. I have determined that every species has a brain power spectrum just like people. Think of the smartest person you know and then the dumbest person that you know. It's a vast threshold. I have determined that only the game animals that are very much lacking in thinking ability will come to a call. Even the smart ones turn their brains off for short periods of time when their testosterone makes that happen. Only when I see a nice buck that I can visually tell has his testosterone doing his thinking do I blow a doe call that says come hither big fella.

    You've heard of dumb luck? I have a friend that is the least woods wise of anyone I know and he kills more game than most. He could care less what direction the wind is blowing or how he smells. The big deer still find him......almost as if they want to commit suicide. On the opposite end of that is the guy that is snake bit. He can do everything right and try so hard that it hurts and game just does not show. My brother hunted hard right in the middle of the whitetail deer capital of the world and never drew fur. Then after 6 seasons he killed his first deer then the next year he killed several. Then he went to Alaska to pursue Brown Bear. He killed a 9 1/2 footer. Then it seemed that the monkey was off his back. He is as successful now as the next guy. Just keep at it my friend thats all you can do and remember there a lot more guys coming home empty handed than will admit to it.

  5. #5
    Member GrassLakeRon's Avatar
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    Over the years hunting I have kept track of my family and friends hunting. 20%. That seems to be the success rate by me. Some of these folks have hunted 50 years or more. My first deer was 5 years after I started. I have never shot horns, because I don't see them in season. It happens. I love to hunt, but due to pressure and number of beasties, I don't always see or get them.

    If you love to be in the outdoors like I do, for me it is a spiritual time, if I get something, great....if not that's ok to.

    Good luck...... I hope this year's is your year.....
    "Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science"

    Edwin Hubble

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    MAKE THIS A STICKY ON MOVING UP TO THE GREAT LAND, at least put it in the relocating forum.

    I got my first moose in the fourth year. I fled a very heavily used rutting area the first year because I thought it was bear sign, lol. No doubt about it though, there are hundreds more atvs every year adding pressure.

  7. #7
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldSchool45 View Post
    ....Yes, I love just being in the woods....
    Always remember this as it "should" be why you're out there in the first place. If you get lucky, then that's just the icing on the cake....
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  8. #8
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    I feel for you. if you don't want to be around so many people when hunting either buy a plane or go down south. it gets crazy up here. I really think Alaska has got to be the worst place to own an ATV or camper, there are just not enough roads for the amount of people.

  9. #9
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    As a life long Alaskan the one thing I will not do is hunt with half the state of Alaska lol. I remember the days when you could go out and park your truck and do some walking and have better luck than you do now. I agree with everyone else, keep trying and you will get it figured out. You already have taken the first step and started asking for advice. Unfortunately if you want to have hunting experience with out others all over the place then fly in hunting is your best bet.I am fortunate enough to live off the road system and on a river system so have a great advantage when it comes to hunting. The Moose population is doing very well in my unit. I have bagged my winter meat 7 years straight, but there were lean years too. There have been years I didn't hunt because I knew the moose population was way low too. In the long run I say keep trying different methods and most defenately other areas. Good luck!

  10. #10
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    For solitude on the road system, it's hard to beat walking in, especially if you're in a non-motorized area. I hunt with an ATV a few times each year, but my most lonely hunts are generally on foot. Sometimes I can see the highway from where I'm hunting, but if there's no ATV trail, I'm probably alone. Of course, sometimes that is true via ATV as well. I was hunting via ATV the last two years on the sheep opener, and within sight of the highway I never saw another hunter either time. Of course, I didn't kill a sheep, so... I'm heading back to the same spot in a couple weeks for the end of moose season, so we'll see if that area is as lonely in September as it seems in August.

    I get the frustration, though. As much as we talk about the experience being the real reason we're there, it can be frustrating when success eludes us for a long time, especially if it's that first animal. If you were in my neck of the woods I could point you to a few places where you'd have a good shot at black bears, but I'm pretty clueless on Fairbanks hunting. If I were in your shoes I would look pretty seriously at signing up for a Unit 13 Tier I caribou tag for next year, as that is a pretty high odds hunt, but I'm not sure if you're willing to forgo moose hunting closer to home.

    Good luck to you, sir. When you finally break your streak, be sure to come on here and share pictures and a story. I'm looking forward to reading it!

  11. #11
    Member Bambistew's Avatar
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    10% of the hunters take 90% of the game... keep that in mind. You're part of the 90%, don't sweat it. Some people have the knack, others not so much.

    If you want to be successful you have to hunt harder than the rest of the hunters. Going to an area where you see lots of other people is not hunting hard... If you can easily access it, its not hard. If you are expecting to drive up to a dead animal... its not hard enough.

  12. #12

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    This is a great post! I have seen many in the same boat as you and alot of it is just dumb luck even when you do everything right. My advice would be
    1. Put in for lots of low odd moose hunts during the draw and cross your fingers.
    2. Use google earth and find ponds that are farther back than most would want to pack a moose out of where there are no ATV trails near by. My view is if it takes me 2-3 days to pack a moose out who cares I have a moose down and the pressure is off. Plus I like packing meat.
    3. Sell that ATV and plan an epic fly out for next year.

    bottom line is keep at it and you will have success.

  13. #13
    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    OS45... I feel for you there.

    My first couple of years up here were pretty lean. I was thinking and hunting like what I was- an E. Coast whitetail hunter. I got lots of good advice...that I could never figure my way through.

    Through the mentorship of a really great friend, I finally connected the dots and started seeing and taking game. I'll be ever grateful that Bill basically took me out and showed me​ what to do.

    It sounds like you have most of the pieces, you might just need a little help putting it all together.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

  14. #14
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    If you want to be successful you have to hunt harder than the rest of the hunters. Going to an area where you see lots of other people is not hunting hard... If you can easily access it, its not hard. If you are expecting to drive up to a dead animal... its not hard enough.

    That right there sums up Alaska hunting especially on the road system. Who cares if you have an atv. Look at your neighborhood- everyone else does too. Put big tires on it to go further- everyone else has that figured out as well. Get a boat- then hunt with the rest of the state with boats. It's a no win situation. You have to hunt harder and want it more than the rest. One thing you may be overlooking is patience. You've probably hunted some really good spots and not known it. Are you maximizing the best glassing hours.. um minutes of the day? Here's my point. I used to hunt an area close to Fairbanks we would run 4 wheelers in there and camp on the main trail. One morning in particular I was glassing I counted 12 cow moose basically from my tent. In 5 minutes I couldn't find a single one. The sun had just come up and they moved or laid down and were invisible. I knew where all 12 were but I couldn't see any of them. In the 10 years I've been here I've killed 8 moose. None of them ran across the trail in front of me. You have to get off and look for them!

  15. #15
    Member ArcticNorseman's Avatar
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    I feel your pain . . . 11 years, that's how long it took me to put a big game critter in my freezer. I was dang near peeing myself as I read your rant - been there, done that. One thing I'll tell you, it's a lot more fun to have a hunting partner. Even with an ATV, I never wanted to risk getting myself into situations that I'd need help getting out of when I was hunting alone, but with another guy on an ATV near ya, the willingness to "give it a shot" comes a bit more freely. Now, since I've been in AK, I've done well keeping my freezer stocked with halibut and salmon . . . but the prize of enjoying caribou and moose, that I've bagged eluded me for far too long. I've had a dry fire, second-guessed myself on a cow-calf pair on a antlerless tag . . . all that stuff. Even thought everyone was crazy in saying a normal ole tent wasn't good enough. Well, after working hard and building an inventory of quality camp gear, I can enjoy being out there. Using the ATV gets me out there, and this past weekend, I had to leave a bunch of firewood because I had two caribou to pack out in the meat wagon. My hunting partner was green as one gets up here, and his first trip out, he mercilessly killed his bull in 5 shots, or was it 6? Mine went down instantly with one, and I can honestly say, I was relieved . . . it shouldn't take that long, should it? In any case, stick it out . . . you'll love the feeling when your wife can't give you any more ---- guff

  16. #16
    Member winibezold's Avatar
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    AS the others have said, keep trying. I gave up on the big animals close to roads a wile ago. Yeah, you may get lucky but more often not. Buy really good boots and a really good backpack and get out. I took a brown bear last year about 5 miles from the seward highway back into the kenai mts. you can guess how many other hunters I saw. Just keep at it. I can remember the first time I actually saw a bear while hunting, it was a very relieving feeling to finally see SOMETHING. good luck and don't give up.

  17. #17
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    I personally cant feel your pain as I harvest moose every year. I can however tell you how I do it, and maybe help heal your pain. I by no means am a pro moose hunter. What I do that works is hunt where others are not willing to. Park the quad, and get off the trails. I hunt where everyone else does, my spots are not secrets, well one is:O) What I do is walk the thickets. Slow and steady still hunting. If you get away from the trail by 1/4 or more mile, you will start to see game. A prime example of this is Buffalo Mine Road in Palmer. I have hunted there twice, and both times harvest our game on the first day in there. There are tons of guys running around there on quads and some do get lucky and score a bull. Many of them complain that there are no moose and it is over hunted. I agree its over hunted, but only within a 1/4 mile of the trails as the two times we went in we went home with moose. If you are hunting an area that you know has moose and you're not seeing them, you are hunting the wrong area of that location. Many moose hang in the thickets once the traffic and guns start banging away at them. I personally believe a hunter can have success by glassing and finding critters, but I also have more success by beating the brush and bringing it to them.
    Again, I am no pro moose hunter or anything else. To be honest I am too hyper to sit around and wait for moose to come so I go to them. It works for me and has worked every year I have lived here.
    If I was closer to you, I would gladly take you out and hunt with you.
    Take a youngster out when you go, it will change his/her life forever!!

  18. #18

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    I can understand your frustration. Hunting off the road system here is extremely challenging. Hell just making sense of the regs takes a lot of time and effort. My wife has taken all the game since we moved up from Montana 4 years ago. She has a knack for drawing tags (DC827 hike in & DS102 fly in) so I've had to play the role of guide, planner, and hunt motivator. Thankfully she's totally into it. This year neither of us drew any preferred tags so we looked into doing a road system hunt and decided to say "screw it" and are going to France instead for a much needed Alaska break. We just did a weekend trip up to the Denali hwy to do a little camping and Ptarmigan hunting (which was good) and I have never seen so many rigs and ATV's all decked to the 9's. I didn't have a tag for that area but I brought the optics to do some scouting for next year etc... What I took away from doing a few hours of glassing was, go the opposite direction of the ATV's aka hike/hunt in Controlled Use Areas (CUA). I sat on top of a ridge we hiked up and watched multiple strings of Caribou walking around in areas that would be a tough hike but not impossible. I also saw a largish bull moose that was a good ways away and would have been a really tough pack but still doable with 3 tough guys and strong backs. It was somewhat satisfying to see all these guys spending all this money to only drive the opposite direction of the game in an effort to save effort. I had a boss that used to jokingly say, "we don't have time to be efficient". Here are all these guys spending all this money on all this equipment and then spending all this time to load it, maintain it, fuel it, haul it, unload it, get it stuck, break the trailer, break an axle, blow a CV joint, and on and on while the whole time they could just willow bust for two hours, shoot a bull, and spend two days packing out a nice bull. I didn't hear one rifle shot in three days out there. I did hear all kinds of motors, exhaust, coughing, doors slamming, you get the idea. The other thing I noticed was the smell. Twenty RV's all crapping and cooking in one area does not go unnoticed. I would wager any bull wanting to live another year would steer way clear of that whole scene. One must find a balance from having technology serve them or them serving the technology. ATV's are played out in my opinion. I would wager that in 10 years anywhere that allows motorized access will be either hunted out or the animals will adapt and change the pattern of which they migrate (if they haven't already). If wolves can cause elk in Montana to change their migration habits and heard size in about 5-10 years then ATV's can surely do the same in a similar time-frame. Sad state of affairs we as "hunters" have gotten ourselves into but that's another thread.... Keep at it, positive thinking has a knack of producing positive results. You are truly being tested and you have to find a way to turn that challenge into a learning experience. It's all part of the process. It will allow you to hold your head high when some anti-hunting pos spouts off about how easy it is to use a rifle to kill a defenseless animal. I like to talk to people in person. The internet is great but sitting down over coffee and listening rather than waiting to talk can yield some useful information especially when chatting with old timers who can't really compete with younger fitter guys willing to walk. Personally I would sell that ATV of yours and use the money to do a fly in hunt somewhere. Combined with your PFD you should have plenty of scratch to make a good go of it. My wife and I look at the PFD as our next years hunt money (or in this years case, eating delicious French food on a river in France). I can promise you this. When you do (and you will) get that bull or bruin you've been after those folks at your work will probably be a lot more inclined to invite you along on their next hunting adventure. You'll then be able to choose your hunting partner wisely armed with the knowledge that you can do it on your own, so whomever you decide to bring needs to bring something to the table in terms of increasing your success. Keep that in mind while you are trying to find people to hunt with now. They are probably thinking along the same lines. People often judge based on success over effort when choosing a partner (hunting or otherwise). If you're content with being a packer for someone else to learn an area then tell them you'll leave your gun at home and just carry bear protection. It may be incentive for them to take you along. It can be hard to break into the clique' if others see you as competition. Best of luck out there and remember the power of positive thinking

  19. #19
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    I feel ya. I would also highly recommend a tier 1.. there is a massive amount of hunting pressure, but, there is alot of caribou. Getting a caribou on a tier 1 would at least get you on the scoreboard. There's nothing worse than starting slow, then it seems like you will never score. I have been there also many times. What is being said from these experienced guys is all to true. Wheelers are practically worthless if you want to get away from the crowd. I have not taken a moose yet, but because of work I haven't had much opportunity. But, I do see moose almost every single time I'm out. And it is never on the trail. I also see bears quiet a bit, my method for finding them is quite contrary to what alot of people do. I don't look in valleys, rivers, or places you would expect to see a bear. I scan ridges, rock slides, and odd places you would not expect to see a bear. And I see bears probably 10-30% of the time. (That's good odds for me) I also have a general rule, if I don't see evidence of recent activity from an animal, I move on. Same rule for fishing, if I don't see fish, I move on until I do. I still get skunked, but not very often. Another idea, go real low budget for a year or two hunting, take the cash you would have spent on the years and plan a drop off. That's an idea I was gonna use, but I spend all the money on crap I don't need instead...

  20. #20
    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Sell the ATV and rifles and get yourself a good shotgun and a good pup retriever to train up as your hunting companion and get into upland birds and waterfowl. Take up origami while you're at it, plenty of time in blinds for that <grin>.

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